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Marie-Josephte Corriveau
File:La Corriveau (Simpson).png
La Corriveau's skeleton terrorising a traveller one stormy night. Illustration by Charles Walter Simpson for the Légendes du Saint-Laurent, 1926.
Born January or February 1733[Note 1]
Saint-Vallier, Quebec
Died 18 April 1763 (age 30)
Quebec City
Nationality French Canadian
Other names La Corriveau
Known for Murder

Marie-Josephte Corriveau (1733 at Saint-Vallier, Quebec – 18 April 1763 at Quebec City), better known as "la Corriveau", is one of the most popular figures in Québécois folklore. She lived in New France, and was sentenced to death by a British court martial for the murder of her second husband, was hanged for it and her body hanged in chains. Her story has become legendary in Quebec, and she is the subject of numerous books and plays.


In history

like that in which Corriveau was exhibited after her execution, the "cage" of Corriveau|alt=photo of a cage with a human-sized dummy held tightly within]]

Corriveau was born in 1733, most probably in the January or February,[Note 1] and baptised on 14 May 1733, in the rural parish of Saint-Vallier in New France as "Marie-Josephte Corriveau". She was the only surviving offspring of Joseph Corriveau, a farmer, and Françoise Bolduc. Her ten brothers and sisters all died in childhood.[1]

Corriveau married at the age of 16, on 17 November 1749, to Charles Bouchard, aged 23, also a farmer. Three children were born in this marriage: two daughters, Marie-Françoise (1752) and Marie-Angélique (1754), followed by a son, Charles (1757). She was widowed at the end of April 1760,[Note 2] and remarried fifteen months later, on 20 July 1761, to another farmer from Saint-Vallier, Louis Étienne Dodier. On the morning of 27 January 1763, he was found dead in his barn, with multiple head wounds. Despite an official recording of the cause of death being from kicks of horses' hooves, and a speedy burial, rumours and gossip of murder spread rapidly through the neighbourhood. Dodier was on bad terms with his father-in-law and with his wife.

New France had been conquered by the British in 1760 as part of the Seven Years' War and was under the administration of the British Army at this time. On hearing the rumours the local British military authorities charged with keeping order set up an inquiry into Dodier's death. The inquiry opened in Quebec City on 29 March 1763, at the Ursulines of Quebec, charging Joseph Corriveau and his daughter Marie-Josephte, before a military tribunal made up of 12 English officers and presided over by Lieutenant Colonel Roger Morris. The case ended, on 9 April, with Joseph Corriveau being sentenced to death, for culpable homicide of his son-in-law. Marie-Josephte was found to be an accomplice to murder, and sentenced to sixty lashes and branded with the letter M on her hand. One of Joseph Corriveau's nieces, Isabelle Sylvain (who he employed as a servant), had testified but changed her story several times during the hearing; she was found guilty of perjury and given thirty lashes and branded with the letter P.

Condemned to hang, Joseph Corriveau then told his confessor, that he was no more than an accomplice to his daughter, after she had killed Dodier. At a second trial, on 15 April, Marie-Josephte testified to having killed her husband with two blows of a hatchet during his sleep, because of his ill-treatment of her.[2] The tribunal found her guilty and sentenced her to hang, her body after to be "hanged in chains" (that is, put up for public display on a gibbet).

The place of execution was Quebec, on the Buttes-à-Nepveu, near the Plains of Abraham, probably on 18 April. [3] Her body was then taken, as directed by the sentence, to be put in chains at Pointe-Lévy, at the crossroads of Lauzon and Bienville[4] (today the Rue St-Joseph and the Boulevard de l'Entente).[Note 3] The body, on its iron gibbet, was exposed to the public view until 25 May at the earliest. Following the requests of those living nearby, an order from the military commander of the district of Quebec, James Murray, addressed to the captain of the militia of Pointe-Lévy, permitted its being taken down and buried.[4]

In 1849, the "cage" was dug up from the cemetery of the church of St-Joseph-de-la-Pointe-Lévy when a pit was dug.[Note 4] Soon after, the cage was stolen from the church cellar, and acquired by the American impresario P. T. Barnum and put on display as a "macabre object".[5] After that, it was put on display at The Boston Museum. The museum slip indicated its provenance with two words: "From Quebec".[5][Note 5]

In legend

for an edition of Anciens Canadiens by Philippe Aubert de Gaspé)|alt=Book illustration]]

The post-mortem exhibition of Corriveau's remains at a busy crossroads (an unusual punishment and unknown in the time of the French regime, and reserved in England for those found guilty of the most serious crimes[Note 6]); the repercussions in the trial; the rumour that her father would be convicted of murdering Dodier at his daughter's instigation; and the gossip which grew up around the circumstances of the death of her first husband all stirred up the popular imagination and became legends still told today in the oral tradition — increasing the number of murdered husbands to as many as seven and likening la Corriveau to a witch.

The 1849 discovery of the iron cage buried in the cemetery of St-Joseph parish (now the Lauzon district) served to reawaken the legends and the fantastic stories, which were amplified and used by 19th century writers. The first, in 1863, Philippe Aubert de Gaspé in Les Anciens Canadiens, has a supernatural Corriveau hanging in the Pointe-Levy cage, terrorising one night a passer-by by conducting a witches' Sabbath and Will-o'-the-wisp at the Île d'Orléans.[6] James MacPherson Le Moine (Maple Leaves, 1863)[7] and William Kirby, following in his footsteps (The Golden Dog, 1877[8]), made her a professional poisoner, a direct descendant of La Voisin, famous for her purported role in The Affair of the Poisons. Writers and historians such as Louis Fréchette and Pierre-Georges Roy have tried to give Corriveau's history, but without completely separating the facts from the anachronistic fantasies added in legend and novels.[9]

The figure of Corriveau still inspires novels, songs and plays and is the subject of argument (was she guilty or not?). Oral tradition also perpetuated and has not stopped, and remains alive, as is evidenced by the numerous stories collected in the lands of many regions of Quebec.[Note 7]

In popular culture

File:She pressed the glowing flowers to her
Caroline de Saint-Castin (right) pressing to her lips the poisoned bouquet offered by la Corriveau (left). Late 19th-century illustration by J. W. Kennedy for an American edition of The Golden Dog by William Kirby.
  • 1863: Les Anciens Canadiens, novel by Philippe Aubert de Gaspé
  • 1863: Marie-Josephte Corriveau, A Canadian Lafarge, in Maple Leaves by James MacPherson Le Moine
  • 1877: The Golden Dog, A Legend of Québec, novel by William Kirby, translated into French by Léon-Pamphile Le May, Le Chien d'Or, légende canadienne (1884)[10]
  • 1885: La Cage de la Corriveau, novel by Louis Fréchette, first published in a special edition of the newspaper La Patrie, 24 February 1885;[11] reprinted and rewritten many times, notably under the title Une Relique in the Almanach du peuple de la librairie Beauchemin, Montreal, 1913.
  • 1966: La Corriveau, dramatic ballet choreographed by Brydon Paige, with original theme and songs by Gilles Vigneault and music by Alexander Brott. Commissioned by the Commission du Centenaire de la Confédération, the ballet was premièred by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, with the collaboration of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of the Place des Arts at Montréal, 21 and 22 December 1966.[12]
  • 1972: La Corriveau, song written by Gilles Vigneault in 1966 for the ballet of the same name, is recorded by Pauline Julien on her album Au milieu de ma vie, peut-être la veille de...
  • 1973: Ma Corriveau, play by Victor-Lévy Beaulieu written for the public examinations of the students of the National Theatre School of Canada, premièred at the Monument-National, its Montreal base, from 3 to 6 October 1973 with a production by Michelle Rossignol, first premièred professionally at the Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui in Montreal from 19 September to 30 October 1976 in a production by André Pagé.[13]
  • 1978: Le Coffret de la Corriveau, fantasy story by André Carpentier[14], translated into English in 1982.[15]
  • 1981: La Corriveau, historical novel by Andrée LeBel[16]
  • 1990: La Cage, play by Anne Hébert[17], translated into English in 2009.[18]
  • 1993 : La Corriveau, romance novel by the English Canadian Douglas Glover[19], translated into French the same year[20], and into Serbian in 1995.[21]
  • 1993: La Corriveau, play by Guy Cloutier, produced by Denise Verville and staged at the Théâtre Périscope, Quebec, from 12 to 30 January 1993. It was reprised, adapted for television with the title La Corrivaux by the director Jean Salvy, with Anne Dorval in the title role, and broadcast on the Télévision Radio-Canada network in 1995.
  • 1999: La Maudite, teen novel by Daniel Mativat[22]
  • 2001: La Corrida de la Corriveau, song by Mes Aïeux (on the album Entre les branches)
  • 2003: La Fiancée du vent : l'histoire de la Corriveau, née en Nouvelle-France et pendue sous le Régime anglais, novel by Monique Pariseau[23]
  • 2003: Julie et le serment de la Corriveau, teen novel by Martine Latulippe[24]
  • 2004: Nouvelle-France, film produced by Jean Beaudin (loose adaptation on the theme of la Corriveau[25])
  • 2006: La Corriveau, animated film by Kyle Craig



  1. ^ a b The record of the act of baptism, of 14 May 1733, indicates that she was about three months old.
  2. ^ Charles Bouchard was buried on 27 April 1760.
  3. ^ These were all near an ancient religious site between the Saint-Joseph and Vaudreuil roads. There was a religious monument called the Monument de la Tempérance which remained in the middle of the nineteenth century, until 1885.
  4. ^ Some renown attached to the bones recovered in this dig. The writer Louis Fréchette wrote about this discovery at the age of ten.
  5. ^ It seems that the cage was destroyed in the museum fire at the start of the twentieth century.
  6. ^ See Gibbet.
  7. ^ Notably the 52 stories collected between 1952 and 1973 under the direction of Luc Lacourcière (Lacourcière 1973, pp. 252–253 [1] and the 122 put together between 1975 and 1990 by the students of Nicole Guilbault (Guilbault 1995, p. 14).


  1. ^ Bonneau 1988, p. 44.
  2. ^ Lacourcière 1968, pp. 230–231 [2] (French)
  3. ^ Lacourcière 1968, p. 234 [3] (French)
  4. ^ a b Lacourcière 1968, p. 239 [4]
  5. ^ a b Fréchette, Louis (1913), "Une Relique – La Corriveau" (in French), Almanach du Peuple, pp. 302–307, 
  6. ^ Aubert de Gaspé 1863, Chapter 4.
  7. ^ MacPherson Le Moine 1863.
  8. ^ Kirby 1877.
  9. ^ Lacourcière 1974 [5].
  10. ^ Kirby 1884.
  11. ^ Fréchette 1885.
  12. ^ Lacourcière 1973, p. 247.
  13. ^ Beaulieu 1976, p. 8.
  14. ^ Carpentier, André (1978). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Le Coffret de la Corriveau"] (in French). Rue Saint-Denis : contes fantastiques (Montreal: Hurtubise HMH): 75–92. ISBN 0775801658. , reissued by André Carpentier in 1988 (Quebec Library, Montreal), translated into English in 2000 and Italian in 2004 (Worldcat).
  15. ^ Carpentier, André (Winter 1982). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "The Chest of Madame Corriveau"]. Matrix 17: 41–48. .
  16. ^ LeBel, Andrée (1981) (in French). La Corriveau. Montreal: Libre Expression. ISBN 2891110560. 
  17. ^ Hébert, Anne (1990) (in French). La Cage, suivi de L'Île de la Demoiselle. Montreal/Paris: Boréal Express / Seuil. ISBN 2-89052-320-9. 
  18. ^ Hébert, Anne; Reid, Gregory J., Grant, Pamela and Fischman, Sheila (tr.) (2009). Two Plays: The Cage and L’Île de la Demoiselle. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press. ISBN 978-0-88754-855-0. 
  19. ^ Glover, Douglas (1993). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator La Corriveau]. 24. Descant. ISSN 0382-909-X. 
  20. ^ Glover, Douglas (1993). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "La Corriveau"] (in French). Meurtres à Québec (Quebec: L'Instant même): 9–24. .
  21. ^ "Curriculum Vitae of Douglas Glover". Retrieved 21 October 2009. .
  22. ^ Mativat, Daniel (1999) (in French). La Maudite. Chacal. Saint-Laurent: Éditions Pierre Tisseyre. ISBN 2890517233. 
  23. ^ Pariseau, Monique (2003) (in French). La Fiancée du vent. Outremont: Libre Expression. ISBN 9782764800669. 
  24. ^ Latulippe, Martine; Rousseau, May (illustrator) (2003) (in French). Julie et le serment de la Corriveau. Bilbo Jeunesse. Montreal: Éditions Québec Amérique. ISBN 978-2-7644-0240-5. 
  25. ^ Tremblay, Odile (4 December 2003). "Le curé et la pendue" (in French). Le Devoir. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 

Further reading

External links

Latest access date of external links: 17 April 2010

Archive documents
  • Documents concernant la Corriveau, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d'archives de Québec, Collection Centre d'archives de Québec, P1000,S3,D435. 128-page collection of research notes on la Corriveau (p. 1), typed transcription of the article by James MacPherson Le Moine, Marie-Josephte Corriveau, A Canadian Lafarge, from 1863 (pp. 2–11), a newspaper clipping entitled Le procès de la Corriveau, dated 28 February 1939 (p. 12) and a copy of the proceedings of the Corriveau case (typist's copy and photostat of the manuscript) (pp. 13–128) of the originals preserved by the Imperial War Museum in London.
Oral tradition
  • Angélina Roy, La Corriveau, 1953. Story about the legend of la Corriveau, recounted 15 November 1953 by Madame Wilfrid Fradette, née Angélina Roy (1875&ndashl;1958), of Saint-Raphaël de Bellechasse, to Luc Lacourcière. Archives de Folklore de l'Université Laval, Collection Luc Lacourcière, enreg. 1658, published in Lacourcière 1973, pp. 259–263
  • Gema Leblanc, La Corriveau, 1989. Story about the legend of la Corriveau, recounted in 1989 by Gema Leblanc, inhabitant of Quebec, to Isabelle-Sophie Dufour. Published in Nicole Guilbault (ed.), Contes et sortilèges des quatre coins du Québec, Documentor/Cégep François-Xavier-Garneau, Quebec, 1991.
  • José Bourassa, La Corriveau, 1989. Story about the legend of la Corriveau, recoiunted in 1989 by José Bourassa, inhabitant of Charny, Quebec, born in Drummondville, to Dany Parizé. Published in Nicole Guilbault (ed.), Contes et sortilèges des quatre coins du Québec, Documentor/Cégep François-Xavier-Garneau, Quebec, 1991.
  • La Corriveau, bronze sculpture by Alfred Laliberté made between 1928 and 1932, now in the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Popular culture
Animated film
Commercial use
  • La Corriveau, dark oatmeal ale from the Quebec microbrewery Le Bilboquet



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